How to Photograph Cosplayers: An Interview with Beethy

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All images by Beethy. Used with permission

New York Comic Con isn’t too far away, and every year lots of photographers and people who call themselves photographers converge on the area to take pictures of cosplayers. Cosplay, for those not aware, is a portmanteau of costume and play–and it ranges back to ancient Chinese culture. And so at conventions, people often dress up as characters.

While some will sit there and simply snap photos of someone’s costume, others will actually try to create full shoots. And one of those photographers is Beethy. He has been well known in the cosplay community for a while. He recently sat down to talk with us about cosplay photography, honing your craft and how to make your portfolio of images better.

Phoblographer: How did you get into photography in the first place and how did you work on improving yourself?

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Beethy: Thanks to my girlfriend at the time. She lent me her 2 megapixel digital camera. I instantly fell in love. I started by taking photos of everything around me like most people. Once I started focusing on portraiture I decided to get more serious which is why I sought after brutal and relentless critique on forums. Most notably /p/ on 4chan. Who figured that would be the best place to go for unfiltered critique back then. pokemon_white___hilda___touko__03__by_beethy-d65aeys

Phoblographer: When did you know that what you love doing is shooting cosplayers?

Beethy: After I went to my first convention with a camera which was at Sydney Supanova in 2009 I just fell in love with the colourful subjects and everything. People were surprisingly very excited to get their photos taken. Following that, well, the response was absolutely insane. Cosplayers loved my work. This felt great!

Phoblographer: Tell us about what’s in your gear bag these days?

Beethy: For the last 2-3 years or so it’s been a Canon 1000D, but I upgraded to a Canon 6D a few weeks ago. Haven’t shot with it yet though. Lens wise I carry the 50mm f/1.8 and the 17-40mm f/4 L with me. I used to use two external flashes through umbrellas, however I found that this slowed my process overall.

Phoblographer: What are some tips that you can give to folks that want to become better cosplay photographers?

yoko_littner__02__by_beethy-d6inj9h Beethy: Be energetic, be excited! Seriously. You see someone you like the look of, just approach them and go shoot with them. Collaborate with them creatively, cosplayers have a ton of fantastic ideas that you can incorporate easily in your current style. On top of that you absolutely have to be hungry for critique. Without it you will possibly stagnate and you may take very long to reach your true potential.

Phoblographer: What do you think makes for a good cosplay photograph?

Beethy: I think colour coordination within the image is extremely important. Combined with killer composition of course. The reason why I think colours are so important is because a lot of costumes and wigs are super colourful. You need to harmonize that well with your background.

Phoblographer: When you work with cosplayers for the first time, do you break potential nervousness of the subject? This is something lots of folks face when they go to Comic Con, PAX or other conventions.

Beethy: I try my best to make them feel special. I want my shoot with them to feel like a super fun and different experience. If a cosplayer is a little stiff and nervous, I’ll direct them more.

Phoblographer: DeviantArt is still an extremely strong community for the cosplay world. What are some tips that you have on increasing your influence, presence and on building a portfolio?

Beethy: Hard to say. It just kinda happened for me. As a cosplay photographer it’s extremely hard to make it on Deviantart. As far as I know only Kirawinter and myself generally do well. The rest is dominated by cosplayers. To answer your question, I believe that if you try your best to put out quality work you will eventually succeed.

Phoblographer: When does your specific vision for a final photo hit you: before the shoot, during the shoot, or during the editing process?

Beethy: Usually during the shoot. This may have something to do with the fact that I generally roughly know what I will do in Photoshop. If there’s cars or people in the shot, I know I can easily get rid of em. When I do get ‘that shot’ I will jump like crazy from excitement and feel really good. It’s kinda dorky but I can’t help it.

Phoblographer: If you had to choose one image that is your absolute favorite in your portfolio, what would it be and why?

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Beethy: Funnily enough it’s not a cosplay shot. It’d be my photo titled ‘Anxiety’. I think it’s my most important and personal piece.

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Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.